Updated April 8, 4:30 p.m. EST
A socialist, Jewish, “not particularly religious” senator from Vermont will soon make his debut at the Vatican. On Friday, Bernie Sanders announced that in a week or so, he will be speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, a scholarly body that’s part of Catholic Church in Rome.
“I was very moved by the invitation,” he said during an interview on Morning Joe. “People say Bernie Sanders is radical? Uh-uh. Read what the pope is writing.”
There is a somewhat uncanny overlap between the way Bernie and Francis talk about economic issues. One of the first pieces of writing the pope released during his tenure, Evangelii Gaudium, is all about the greed and fundamental corruption at the heart of the global economy. Both men speak with passion about poverty and talk about labor and wages in moral terms. And Sanders has often praised the pope, including after the pontiff addressed the U.S. Congress in September.
Even so, the simple fact of Sanders’s visit is remarkable: As a fairly progressive non-Catholic, he’s a curious choice of a speaker for a group of academically minded priests. In the middle of a tight race to the Democratic convention and presidential nomination, it’s also striking that he’s taking precious time off the campaign trail for a jaunt to Rome.